FALLS CHURCH, Va. — The word poison suggests a bubbling vial marked with skull and crossbones. However, poisonings can result from misuse of common household products or even from our home itself in the form of lead. Poisoning can happen all at once or gradually over time. TRICARE covers children’s blood lead testing at well-child care visits when medically necessary. Learn how to protect your family against accidental poisoning.
Recognizing and Screening for Lead
Blood lead poisoning occurs when a person or child eats, drinks or inhales lead or a lead-contaminated item. Lead is commonly found in homes built in 1978 or earlier in the form of paint, pipes or plumbing fixtures. The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that over 24 million homes in the U.S. contain lead-based paint or lead-contaminated dust.
As reported nationally about water contamination in Flint, Michigan, lead poisoning is a serious health threat to children. Lead exposure can damage the developing brain and nervous system, slow growth and development, lead to learning and behavioral problems and cause hearing and speech problems. Symptoms of lead poisoning don’t appear until after dangerous amounts of lead have built up in the person.
The EPA notes that there are steps you can take to protect your family from lead exposure. Those steps include understanding your home’s lead risks, maintaining your home’s condition and testing your home’s drinking water.
At well-child care visits, TRICARE covers lead level screening for children from age six months to age six who are at high risk. A child’s risk level is based on results of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s lead poisoning form given during well-child visits. If you are concerned about lead exposure and your child, talk to your child’s primary care provider.
Other Preventable Household Poisoning
In 2015, America’s 55 poison centers received 2.2 million calls for help. Nearly 50 percent of all poison exposures involve children younger than six years old. That means half of all poisonings are due to young children eating or inhaling a product such as medicine or household cleaning products. These poisonings are largely preventable. Knowing which products are dangerous can prevent child poisoning.
First, find the common household poisons you keep in your home. These include:
• Laundry and cleaning supplies, especially in brightly-colored packets
• Medicines and vitamins
• Hand sanitizers
• Small button batteries
Next, create safe storage habits. Keep items in their original, labeled containers and kept out of sight, out of reach or locked up.
Arm yourself against poisoning by learning more about household poisons. Be sure to keep the national phone number for Poison Help, 1-800-222-1222, posted in your home and on your cell phone. It is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.